I was very favorably impressed with the issue of The Social Contract that arrived a few days ago. It is an extremely useful compendium of clear thinking on a subject that is badly clouded by emotion.
I read with great interest Professor Otis Graham's article on the uses and misuses of history in debating American immigration policy (Winter 1990-1991). I thought his observations about the temptations and pitfalls of historical analogy were particularly acute.
I would like to point out just one of several differences between the nature of immigration today, and that of previous periods to which immigration advocates point with such satisfaction. It is a difference that makes historical analogy especially precarious. Previous waves of immigrants have been overwhelmingly white, while today's immigrants are overwhelmingly non-white.
Does this matter? Today's liberal pieties virtually require us to pretend that it does not. However, race has always been the great dividing line in this country, and race will be an enormous obstacle to the assimilation of today's non-white immigrants.
As Professor Richard Alba of Yale has pointed out in his recent book, Ethnic Identity The Transformation of White America, intermarriage is the true test of assimilation in America. He finds that today, three-quarters of the marriages of white people cross European ethnic lines, whereas less than one percent cross racial lines. That is to say that so long as it has been limited to a single race, the American melting pot has been a roaring success. Similarly exclusive melting pots are beginning to form new Hispanic and Asian alloys.
The United States has always had two racial minorities--blacks and Indians. Despite hundreds of years of coexistence with whites, the racial divide has kept these two groups largely out of the mainstream. By what unprecedented trick of brotherhood do today's deliberately race-blind policy makers expect new racial minorities to blend into the mainstream when the old ones have not?
Difference in race, language, and religion are at the heart of conflicts around the world. In the name of the lofty but obviously incorrect notion that such things can be made not to matter, American immigration policy is sowing the seeds of potentially disastrous conflicts in the future.
Samuel Taylor, Editor
Box 2504, Menlo Park CA 94026